Fifteen kilometres from London’s city centre, Royal Albert Dock lies derelict, as grey and gloomy as the worst of English weather. But developer Xu Weiping has a $US1.6 billion plan to turn it into Europe’s central hub for Chinese companies.
As the New York Times points out, Xu has a reputation for building “business parks the size of cities”, and this proposal would see 60 Chinese companies move into 418,000sqm of office space by 2022. The British government already intends to sell the 35-acre plot to Xu, on which he’ll build retail outlets, offices and recreation facilities. And he has form: his company already owns a business complex in Beijing, is currently building two more, and has approval for a new project that will see a commercial centre the size of central London — with green space as big as the UK capital’s massive Hyde Park — spring up in Hangzhou Bay, close to Shanghai.
The project isn’t without its challenges though. The dock is home to London’s small but busy City Airport — so the location is hardly relaxing — and the borough of Newham, in which it sits, has strict rules about what can be built and the quantity of new jobs the project must generate. Indeed, those same regulations have scuppered previous attempts at regeneration in the area, and even successful dockland redevelopments, like Canary Wharf, have failed to seize the imagination of Londoners in the past. Xu better cross his fingers. [New York Times]